Chocolate chess pie is a decadent, fudgy custard pie baked in a buttery homemade pie crust. This tasty pie is a chocolate lover's dream and makes the perfect Thanksgiving dessert!
Chess pie is a beloved Southern dessert that I grew up eating in Mississippi and it's still one of my favorite pies. Made with simple ingredients that come together with little effort, this chocolate chess pie will win you over with its luscious chocolatey filling and delicious crackly top!
My Mama made some delicious chess pies in her day and I think this recipe would make her proud! For more classic Southern desserts, check out our Old Fashioned Buttermilk Pie and Southern Tea Cakes recipes next!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
- Incredibly easy to make. A simple custard filling consisting of eggs, sugar, cocoa powder, and butter is whisked together and poured into a pie crust, and baked until set. That's it!
- Super chocolatey. The filling of this pie has a deliciously creamy and custardy texture that is exploding with rich chocolate flavor. The pie forms a crackly crust on top that is a tasty contrast to the smooth, creamy filling.
- Perfect Thanksgiving pie. Make this chocolate chess pie a day or two in advance and store it in the refrigerator until ready to serve for the perfect stress-free Thanksgiving dessert.
Important Ingredient Notes
A complete list of ingredients with measurements along with detailed recipe instructions can be found in the recipe card located at the bottom of this post.
- Cocoa powder. Use regular unsweetened or Dutch-processed cocoa powder for this recipe. The better the quality of your cocoa powder, the better flavor your pie will have. I love Ghirardelli and Rodelle cocoa powder. Hershey's cocoa powder works great also!
- Butter. Make sure your melted butter is not too hot when added so it does not cook the eggs. If using salted butter, do not add any additional salt to the pie filling.
- Evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is much more concentrated than regular milk and adds richness to the pie filling. You may also use heavy cream, half and half, or regular whole milk.
- Vanilla extract. Use good-quality, pure vanilla extract for the best flavor. Cheap vanilla can give your pie an "off" or sometimes alcohol flavor.
- Pie crust. You may use a homemade, frozen, or refrigerated pie crust for this pie recipe. I typically use my homemade pie crust from my sweet potato pie recipe or frozen if I'm in a pinch.
How To Make Chocolate Chess Pie
- Prepare your crust. Gently press your homemade or refrigerated pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate and crimp the edges or set your frozen crust out on the counter while you prepare the filling.
- Make the pie filling. Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium mixing bowl then add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth.
- Bake the pie. Pour the filling into your prepared pie crust and bake the pie at 350°F for 50 to 55 minutes until the center is barely jiggly.
What Is Chess Pie?
Chess pie is an easy-to-make dessert usually consisting of eggs, sugar, butter, flour, and sometimes milk. Oftentimes, cornmeal is added for more structure, and an acid such as lemon juice or buttermilk gives the pie a delicious tanginess.
Chess pie is very popular in the Southern US and I have been eating this classic dessert as far back as I can remember. There are several variations of chess pie and while I love them all, I'd have to say this chocolate chess pie is my favorite!
Variations and Substitutions
I love that chess pie is such a versatile dessert! Try some of these tasty chess pie variations for even more custardy deliciousness:
- Lemon chess pie
- Classic chess pie
- Coconut chess pie
- Caramel chess pie
- Orange chess pie
- Pineapple chess pie
- Brown butter chess pie
Frequently Asked Questions
There are a few different stories about how chess pie got its name. A couple of my favorites are that it was originally called "chest pie" because it was made with whatever you could find in your chest (pantry) but because of the Southern accent it turned into "chess pie".
Another story I like is that a lady first made this pe and called it "just pie" and our delightful Southern accent eventually turned the name into "chess pie". If you're not from the South you may wonder how "just" turns into "chess", but take it from a Mississippi girl, we LOVE making up words! Ok, y'all?!
Chess pie and buttermilk pie are very similar but while chess pie is typically thickened with cornmeal, buttermilk pie is not. Buttermilk pie is a sweet and tangy dairy-based pie thickened with flour with lemon juice and/or zest added for more tanginess. Chess pie is a very sweet custard pie that sometimes has a small amount of milk added and maybe a little vinegar to tame the sweetness.
Chess pie can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and stored n the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Chess pie can also be frozen and will keep for up to 3 months in a freezer storage bag.
Absolutely! Chocolate chess pie is an excellent make-ahead dessert and can be made up to 2 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
More Southern Desserts You Will Love!
- Skillet Peach Cobbler
- Southern Sweet Potato Pie
- Southern Pecan Pralines
- Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- The Best Bread Pudding
- New Orleans Beignets
- Southern Pecan Pie
- Sock It To Me Cake
- Old Fashioned Banana Pudding
- Chocolate Gravy
- Fresh Strawberry Cobbler
- Moist Lemon Bundt Cake
- Hummingbird Cupcakes
Chocolate Chess Pie
- 1, 9-inch pie crust homemade, refrigerated, or frozen, my homemade pie crust from my sweet potato pie recipe is linked
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder regular or Dutch-processed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup melted butter unsalted
- 3 large eggs beaten
- ½ cup evaporated milk see note
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Prepare your pie crust by gently pressing your homemade or refrigerated pie crust into your pie plate and crimping the edges, or by setting your frozen pie crust out on the counter while you prepare the filling.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, and salt until combined. Add the melted butter, beaten eggs, evaporated milk, and vanilla extract to the bowl and whisk until the filling is smooth and lump free.
- Pour the filling into your prepared pie crust and bake the pie in the preheated oven for 50 to 55 minutes, until the pie has puffed up and the center is just barely jiggly.
- Allow the pie to cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Enjoy chilled or room temperature with a dollop of fresh whipped cream!
- The better the quality of your cocoa powder, the better flavor your pie will have. I love Ghirardelli and Rodelle cocoa powder. Hershey's cocoa powder works great also!
- Evaporated milk is much more concentrated than regular milk and adds richness to the pie filling. You may also use heavy cream, half and half, or regular whole milk.
- Leftover chocolate chess pie can be stored wrapped tightly in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.